Any avid gardener knows the frustration of searching in vain for realistic and practical gardening resources. Coffee-table books full of lush images of English country gardens and technical volumes on landscape design are of little use to dirt-under-the-nails gardeners seeking straight answers to questions about planning a cutting garden that really produces. Suzanne McIntire provides a bumper crop of such down-to-earth help in An American Cutting Garden. Using both common and botanical names, she discusses in depth a wide variety of herbaceous perennials, biennials, annuals, and bulbs and provides sensible directions for choosing ideal plants. Often illustrating her advice with personal accounts of mistakes and successes, McIntire supplies information on a wide range of topics: how many plants are needed of any one kind, when and how to successfully sow seed outdoors, the heat-hardiness of plants, and strategies for coping with the effects of hot summers and cold winters. She also describes the simple and rewarding ""haphazard school"" of flower arranging. Special chapters sympathetically address the beginner's cutting garden, a cutting garden for small spaces and another for shade, and autumn in the cutting garden. A series of invaluable appendices offer instruction for starting seed under lights, list plants that self-sow in the author's garden, and provide sources for plants. From the earliest pansy (Viola x wittrockiana) to the latest chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum pacificum), a unique section lists hundreds of plants in order of bloom throughout the growing year, enabling both the novice and the experienced gardener to plan for complementary blooms and to extend the cut-flower season. An American Cutting Garden is a real gardener's gardening book and will be enormously helpful even to those who don't grow flowers for cutting.
Suzanne McIntire is a freelance writer and seasoned veteran of gardening in the hot summers and cold winters of northern Virginia. She is the editor of The American Heritage Book of Great American Speeches for Young People.